We Stand Together Against Domestic and Family Violence

One woman calls the Australian police every two minutes due to domestic and family violence.

Domestic and family violence is any behaviour that causes physical, psychological or sexual harm to those within an intimate relationship. At ACM we stand with 1800RESPECT against domestic and family violence.

Pregnancy does not offer a woman protection from domestic violence, with research suggesting that women are at a much greater risk of violence during pregnancy and in the postpartum period. It is believed that up to 30% of women will experience domestic violence for the first time during their pregnancy.

"One in three women will be subjected to domestic or family violence in their lifetime, and it escalates in pregnancy and often commences in pregnancy," says Dr Jane Morrow, Senior Midwifery Lecturer at Australian Catholic University.

There is something about that domestic violence question that we struggle with what to do if the woman says yes

The unique relationship between midwives and pregnant women presents an ideal opportunity to offer support for women experiencing domestic violence.

"Especially in continuative care relationships midwives build up such a rapport," says Dr Kathleen Baird, Director of Midwifery and Nursing Education, Women's & newborn services, GCUH & Griffith University. 

"They are in this position of trust and held in high regard."

As a midwife, it is important to have this conversation during care and be aware of steps to take and resources available when assisting women who advise they are experiencing domestic and family violence.

"There is something about that domestic violence question that we struggle with what to do if the woman says yes," says Dr Baird.

1. Ask the question
Ask women in your care about domestic violence in a confident and professional manner, in a way that does not pose judgement, and in a safe and private environment. "We need to make sure that midwives take some ownership of this and really start to ask the question," says Dr Morrow. 

2. Responding to positive disclosure
Be aware of health service guidelines and protocols, as well as safe referral pathways - remember you are not alone.  "They don't have to solve this themselves and have all the answers, it's not a one agency response," says Dr Baird. 

3. Documentation
Accurate documentation of a domestic violence disclosure is imperative. You must also understand the limits of your confidentiality and provide a clear explanation to women about information you are legally obliged to share. 

4. Risk Assessment and Safety Planning 
With agencies identify the emotional needs and physical risks, and develop a safety plan that meets the immediate and long-term safety obligations.

1800RESPECT have released a free Frontline Workers Toolkit that contains valuable practice resources, videos, apps and tools that provide advice and support. Click here to register and download a personalised toolkit to assist you as a midwife in supporting pregnant women who are experiencing domestic and family violence.

Until the 18th December ACM's webinar, 'Screening and Responding to Disclosure of Domestic Violence', will be available free from the ACM shop. Click here to access this great resource that provides specific domestic violence response information for midwives. 
"It's all about providing resources to people in situations who could make a difference," says Dr Morrow.

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